Although I played demos of both games when they came out, I purchased neither. Shadow of the Colossus came out not long before I had an internet connection and I read reviews of the games from £5 Playstation Magazines. Iím sure I donít need to tell anyone that both games were highly praised and I was curious to try them out. Unfortunately my PS2 died shortly after trying the demos and I decided to move on to the next generation. So when I heard that the games were going to be re-released in HD on the PS3, I took the opportunity to finally try them out. This is what I thought about them.
Ico is a game that spent a long while in development and had little recognition in terms of sales. The game was originally meant to be developed on the PS1 but it was released on the PS2. Most of the few who had played it gave it high praise; giving the game a cult hit status.
Ico is a game about a young boy who was born with horns. The village that he grew up in believed that his horns were a sign of a bad omen and that any misfortune suffered by the village was because of his presence. The villagers decided to take the boy on horse to a castle and lock him in a tomb and left for dead. However, the boy breaks free and sees a girl trapped in a cage at the top of the room. After freeing her, they both try to communicate, but they speak different languages. You learn that the girls name is Yorda from the subtitles. A shadow then captures Yorda and drags her to a dark black portal in the ground; to where? I donít know but it makes me think of the film ďDrag Me to HellĒ. After the boy saves her from the shadow they both decide to escape from the castle. Yorda uses her power to open a gate to the next area and Ico wonders how she managed it. From there, you and Yorda have to make your way through the castle together and overcome the obstacles that stand in your way.
The obstacles that you will find are platforming, usually from ledge to ledge; climbing ropes and swinging from chains; pushing blocks and pulling levers. There are also instances of using bombs, lighting torches and cutting ropes. The other main obstacle is the shadow creatures which spawn out of the ground from black portals to capture Yorda. I have to say that I didnít enjoy fighting off these creatures.
The combat is simplistic, consisting of you hitting the attack button until their white glowing eyes vanish, where the shadow evaporates afterward. These shadows can take a beating and there are plenty of them. If I didnít find that dull enough, they can hit you and you stay knocked out for quite a long time, giving them enough time to take Yorda to another portal where you have to drag her out. There were quite a few occasions where I would rescue Yorda, get knocked out and run to the other portal, rescue Yorda and get knocked out and it started to feel like an endless cycle. On top of that, there are some areas where the shadows infinitely spawn but you arenít given any visual clues as to when they will, which is frustrating.
You could say that this is a way to let the player know that they should move on to the next area, but I would have gone to the next area regardless of whether there were any enemies or not.
A few of the puzzles in the game are mildly interesting but I canít say I ever found them particularly rewarding to complete. This means that with dull combat I would expect the puzzles to be the driving force of the game, but they didnít do much for me. The save points in the game are benches which both Yorda and Ico have to sit down on to save, but they are a fair distance apart, which means that you may end up repeating a fair amount of the game. You may have to clear out of room of shadow creatures again if you forget to save; and I thought Dark Souls was punishing on death *snigger*. You would have thought they may have considered adding a few more benches with the HD update but I suppose that they didnít want to touch its original form.
There are a few things that were good about Ico, such as the hand holding, resting with each other on the benches and struggling with a communication barrier is one of the better ways of showing a relationship compared to most videogames. The shadow creatures and minimalist music gives the game a sureal charm to it. The fact that both characters are dependent on each other to escape the castle is what helps you forget that the game is one big escort mission. The level design is competent, but it just didnít do much for me. I may have been impressed in 2001, but I donít think the game stands up so well today.
Shadow of the Colossus
After being slightly underwhelmed by Ico, I wasnít prepared for how much I was going to love this game.
In Shadow of the Colossus you are Wander, a young man who takes his dead girlfriend (I assume) Mono to a temple in the Forbidden Land and places her on a stone bed there. Shadows emerge from the ground and Wander unsheathes his sword and directs a beam of light which banishes the shadows. A spirit talks from above with both a male and female voice, known as Dormin. Dormin notices that the sword Wander holds is the ďAncient SwordĒ and tells Wander that the blade can be used to revive her. Dormin tells Wander that he must use the blade to slay 16 colossi and then he/she will revive Mono. Dormin adds a warning he will pay a heavy price if he chooses to do so, but Wander replies ďit doesnít matterĒ. Dormin then tells Wander to raise his sword to the light and the light will guide you to where you should go.
So you then set off to the first colossus with your horse Agro, your sole companion throughout your journey. You raise your sword and follow where the light focuses and you end up at a rocky area, where the game will give you a tutorial of the controls before letting you face the colossus. When you face the first colossus, you are taught to use your sword to let the light reveal the weak points that you can attack it with. This is something you will need to do for some of the colossi later in the game. As you make your ascent up a colossus, you actually feel like an insignificant flea that they are trying to shake off and the music is fitting to the experience.
Each of the colossi has their own unique behaviour to watch and adapt to and each has different environments which may help in bringing them down. They are so well designed that I was looking forward to the next one as I was finishing off the existing one. Dormin also gives hints as to what to do against the colossi which are useful, although on one or two I felt he/she pretty much tells you what to do but never enough to completely spoil it. Once you finish a colossus, you end up back at the temple and Dormin tells you of the next colossus to beat.
The horse riding with Agro serves as a build up of anticipation to the next one or rather a contrast that makes it so that you have a break from the action. It would get pretty tedious if you had to fight one after the other straight away without any build up at all.
Some minor things would be that a couple of the colossi are the size of a rhino, which isn't very colossal and the camera can be a bit wild, but not enough to cause frustration.
I really enjoyed fighting the colossi but that was the only thing driving me forward. There are cut scenes between each fight, but none of them add to the story and some may feel there is too little to drive you forward storywise. However, the ending makes up for it for me. I thought it was the best videogame ending ever. It is so emotional and comes with a few twists to wrap up a great game.
If you missed Shadow of the Colossus, I think that it is worth purchasing to play that alone. But who knows, you may enjoy Ico a lot more than I did. I find it easy to recommend to those who missed the titles and I look forward to the Last Guardian.